Psychotherapist Grand, who wrote Emotional Healing at Warp Speed, says not enough is being done in the sphere of public mental health in high-crime communities. Grand says what’s worse is that people normalize their exposure to violence and therefore their approach to healing psychological injury. “People are walking around like zombies because they think that’s the way life should be,” he says.
In her book, Williams wrote that 92 percent of depressed African Americans will not seek treatment. But it’s not just because of the stigma associated with getting help and the weak safety net of hospitals, community health centers and local health departments in low-income communities. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2001 report, Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity, nearly one in four African Americans are uninsured. The number of African Americans working on mental health issues in the community is roughly two percent. The report stated, “Minorities have less access to, and availability of, mental health services.” It further notes, “Minorities in treatment often receive a poorer quality of mental health care.”
A life of psychological injury can be one of pain for an individual, a family and a community. There is no substitute for individual trauma counseling but if someone isn’t willing or cannot seek help there are alternatives solutions that may help ease the pain.
Doctor Shay says the first solution to coping with psychological injury is sleep. “Every hour of extra waking or missed sleep drains the tank and when you’re completely out of gas in your frontal lobe there are a whole bunch of things that you can’t process like trauma, restraint against anger, and emotional and ethical intelligence.”
And for those gang members perpetuating violence, Shay also has a simple question that can be asked when trying to diagnose their mental state:
“It turns out that the majority of symptoms that fit the description of PTSD survivors like, hyper vigilance and shutting down of emotions are in fact survival mechanisms.” He says that the most basic question psychologists need to ask gang members is, “Are you still in danger?”
For families, it is important to talk to children about growing up in urban environments. Reducing the proximity to stressors like verbal, emotional and physical abuse may prevent long-term PTSD. The NYPD and Safe Horizon, an organization that provides assistance to victims of violence and abuse, reports that on average police respond to 650 domestic violence incidents per day. And according to the federal report Child Maltreatment 2007, figures for the country and for New York State reveal that more than 70,000 New York State children are abused and neglected every year.
In addition to providing adequate love, support and acceptance, experts strongly advise trauma counseling for them. From an individual, their family and their community- all spheres of life impact how a person develops and copes with trauma.
In January 2010, Community Board 6, which governs the area where Travis was shot, took action to address the growing fears of its residents that shootings were on the rise. Schools had complained of hearing multiple gunshots and youngsters said in one week they heard three gunshots. “A Call for Peace in Community Board 6” brought together Bronx politicians, doctors, families of victims of gun violence and J.
Shay says this process of “communalization” is also a healing mechanism, which involves the re-telling of someone’s trauma. “The final closure of that cycle is for the person to re-tell their story with enough authenticity that the trauma survivor is able to say, “Yes, that’s exactly what happened.””